I just love the following verse. It’s been awhile since I’ve made any more verse printables, and the principle of this verse is something that we, as a family, have been talking about lately, so I decided to make it into a printable. Plus, I’ve been wanting to tell you about the “Family Improvement Game”, and it just ties in so well …
Openness in family communication is just soooo important. And by openness, I don’t mean just-say-the-first-thing-that-comes-into-your-head-who-cares-if-it-is-kind-or-right … I don’t think that is what this verse is talking about, and is directly opposite of being “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). No, by openness I mean that any topic is open to be kindly and lovingly talked about in the family.
Especially when it comes to our individual flaws.
Imperfections. We all have them! Me, you, everyone. (Except God, of course.) Admitting that we make mistakes and that we are, in fact, *gasp!* not perfect .. well, it’s no big surprise is it? We already know that – both about ourselves and others. And the thing is, not talking about and trying to mutually improve our flaws isn’t fooling anyone into thinking we are flawless. It’s kind of like someone who refuses to ever say, “I’m sorry”. Why would we do that? Are we afraid of appearing to be “in the wrong”? Let me let you in on a secret – people can already see that we make mistakes. Refusing to apologize or talk about our mistakes, especially within a family, isn’t hiding anything, it is just adding on to it.
I get kind of tickled, I admit, by how blunt Proverbs is about how we should feel about being corrected and reproved. Proverbs 15:5 says, “whoever heeds reproof is prudent.” But Proverbs 12:1 is even more blunt: “he who hates reproof is stupid.” Hard to get around that one!
My dad has often said that the people who know us best are our families, so how foolish are we if we are not seeking their help and correction on things we need to improve in ourselves! It is interesting that we naturally want this in other areas – for instance, as an Etsy shop owner, I and many others seek out “shop critiques”. Basically, this means that you get a fellow seller to come look at your shop, give you advice, and offer pointers on what you could improve – basically, point out what you are doing wrong. And we want that – we value that! Why? Because we want our shop to become even better, and the first step is to look at what we need to fix. How much more so with our character? And who can see what we need to improve better than our family?
This is how the “Family Improvement Game” got invented. It is something that my family (my parents and siblings) do quite often … and while “game” may be a little bit of a stretch, that is just what we always called it, and it actually is something we enjoyed. We have more recently adopted it in our own family (Tim, Leila, and me), and it has already proven beneficial. Basically, everyone comes to the table knowing they are going to get praise and advice on improvement – and by everyone, I mean everyone! From the littlest kid all the way up to the mom and dad.
First make sure everyone understands that nature of this discussion. It is not a time for attacking, insulting, getting defensive, or getting angry. It is a time where we, as a family, can all lovingly try to help one another. Reading some of Proverbs together first might be a good idea (like Proverbs 25:11, Proverbs 15:1, Proverbs 13:18, Proverbs 15:31, or Proverbs 15:12 … there are many proverbs on this!) No one person is being singled out more than any other. Each person will receive both praise and advice. Here is how it works…
You start with the youngest person in the family – in ours, that would be Leila. Then, going around the room from youngest to oldest, all the other members of the family answer this question in a sentence or two: “What has Leila been doing well at lately?” Things like, “I’ve noticed she has really been good about helping out in the kitchen” or “She has done a great job of sharing her toys when friends come to play”. Then, after everyone has given praise, you go back around the room and each person kindly answers this question in a sentence or two, “What is an area Leila could work on improving?”. For instance, “I think you could do a better job about taking care of your things” or “It would be good to work on having a happier heart when something doesn’t go your way”.
Then, move onto the next youngest. And again, all the other members of the family from youngest to oldest first answer, “What has this person been doing well at lately?” and then “What is an area this person could work on improving?” Then move on to the next person – all the way up to the oldest. Yes, even the youngest child gets to offer what they think the oldest person could improve. It is all to be done in love and respect.
There is one major rule: you are not allowed to defend, get angry or argue with the critiques that are offered to you. You simply take them in and consider what your family has to say. And, if you are wise, you will find plenty to improve in yourself.
A couple little side notes – yes, it can be very humbling when it becomes apparent that everyone, even the smallest child, has noticed your flaw of, for instance, losing your temper. BUT it is very rewarding experience when as you are working on improving, if you play the game a couple weeks later, that same area is mentioned, but this time as an area people are noticed that you are better about. Seeing progress like that is very encouraging. The whole goal of the game is to help each other and improve ourselves. It is about love.
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” Proverbs 27:5.
(You can get the printable by clicking the image at the top or by just clicking here.)
How do you encourage openness in your family?